Cosmopolitan Sydney's got a yen for Japanese food. We're blessed with some of Australia's top chefs, whipping up gyoza and sashimi for the masses. Whether you're in the mood for ponzu-laced ceviche or teriyaki-glazed tofu, you won't be disappointed.
Sydney's home to plenty of burger joints and plenty of Japanese restaurants. If you're stuck between the two, Bar Ume's a no-brainer. The brainchild of Ume Restaurant owner Kerby Craig, this casually cool burger bar stems from the raging success of earlier pop-ups. (At the first Ume Burger pop-up event, the whole menu sold out in under an hour). So what's the secret to their success? Perhaps it's the Wagyu sauce on the signature Ume burger, delicately sandwiched between two Hokkaido-influenced milk buns. Or the fact that the veggie burger is no ordinary bean concoction – here it's a delicately fried vegetable fritter slathered in nori mayo and topped with shredded cabbage. And let's give a little love to the sides, from house-made pickles to perfectly flaky hot chips with umami salt. Even the sodas are something special. Go on, treat yourself to a fizzy yuzu or ginger passionfruit flavour.
Niji Sushi Bar
All aboard the taste train at Niji Sushi Bar, a vibrant restaurant in the Kingsford neighbourhood. Whether you fancy a la carte sushi, garden fresh salads or bowls of steaming noodles, you'll be well tempted here. Traditional Japanese influences combine with Western ingredients in Niji's extensive menu. This leads to unique dishes like nori tacos filled with seared salmon, sushi rice, homemade pickles and a spicy chilli mayo. Apart from the dreamy sushi platters, hot dishes like twice-cooked pork belly in a miso sauce give off-the-charts flavour.
Let's be real, most food tastes better when it's wrapped up in dough. At Harajuku Gyoza, the dough is handmade daily and the dumplings are divine. There's gyoza to suit all tastes: pork and kimchi, prawn, lemongrass chicken and vegetable to name a few. You'll even find them stuffed with sweet-tooth-friendly combos like Nutella and bananas or peanut butter and white chocolate. But no matter what flavour you choose, you can be sure that it's freshly prepared with seasonal ingredients from local green grocers and butchers. Be prepared to enter the pearly gates of dumpling heaven.
Head chef RK Tamang knows his way around a sushi counter, having graced the kitchens at the likes of Sydney favourites Flying Fish, Sokyo and Sake. He's brought this expertise to his very own contemporary Japanese restaurant, RK San. Dumplings, grilled dishes and hand-rolled temaki sit alongside sashimi and nigiri on this clever and extensive menu. Everyday Japanese hits get an upgrade here. This means that miso soup comes with diced ocean trout and daikon radish, while squid tempura comes adorned with a zippy jalapeno dressing.
You'll find small plates to suit a big appetite at Kujin. The Japanese Izakaya experience is similar to Spanish tapas, with dishes to share in a cosy gastropub setting. Simple ingredients are chosen for their high quality and presented in eye-catching layouts. Kujin's very hands-on, from the house made noodles to the individually selected sashimi. For those who like it hot, there are plenty of sizzling Teppanyaki dishes to choose from. Take your pick from bite-sized delights like scallops with garlic butter, Wagyu beef with ponzu sauce or king oyster mushrooms in soy butter. And be sure to save room for the mocha spring rolls with green tea ice cream – so worth it.